How To Save the GOP

Now it seems that John Boehner has endorsed Maria Cino for the Republican National Committee chairmanship. There is a problem with that endorsement.

If others follow suit, it will destroy the Republican Party.

The base is furious with Republican insiders, which Ms. Cino exemplifies. Small donor donations will continue to go elsewhere if Cino is chair — and votes will, as well. Electing an insider as RNC chair is one of the best ways to ensure the viability of an actual Tea Party.

Maria Cino, like Reince Priebus and Michael Steele, has showed that she doesn’t understand the fundamental difficulty the Republican Party faces: lack of a long-term ground game that can compete with the labor unions on GOTV.

Rather, the next chairman should create plans to identify, recruit, appoint, train, and equip a precinct committeeman for every precinct in the country.

The lack of a full complement of precinct-level party members, each trained to raise funds and do GOTV work, has several implications for the party:

  • It prevents inroads into identity-politics areas
  • We often hear complaints that the Republican Party is lily-white, and that Blacks and Latinos can ignore us, even though, at least in my experience, the people of both of those communities (as all Americans) share our values of personal responsibility and moral rectitude, and understand the benefits of limited government and personal freedom.

    But the problem is not really that they ignore us, but that we ignore them. Cycle after cycle, we do without any party structure in areas we have abandoned to the Democrats. Without recruiting precinct committemen from each local area, we lack people who understand the subtle language and cultural differences that mark each community. Just as you would not trust a burger-flipper to fundraise and perform GOTV work at a country club, neither should we expect an investment banking lawyer to have the trust of people in the inner city. We all trust local people, and we should not expect anything different.

  • It prevents inroads into deep blue areas
  • Without a precinct committeeman in blue precincts, we will never get the vote from 10% Republican to 20%, or from 20% to 30%. These inroads are important, because every precinct adds to the vote total.

  • Lack of trained PCs forces candidates to do GOTV, instead of doing messaging
  • Why are individual candidates each tasked with getting voters to the polls? In the days before an election, a voter might get calls from two candidates and cards in the mail from four. The duplication of effort and added expense chases a diminishing return.

    Instead, the party apparatus should do GOTV all by itself. In primary elections the local Party should tell voters who is on the ballot and maybe even who is running as a write-in. Primaries can be valuable tools in cleaning up voter lists, identifying new voters, and finding out what their hot button issues are. If there are mistakes to be made, let’s make them in the primary election. In the general election the party should be 100% behind the primary contest winner. If a party official fails to back a party choice, he should be asked to resign, or should receive a challenge at the next party caucus.

  • It wastes volunteer energy
  • Never was this more apparent than this year. In local races all over the country, tea party activists walked precincts, made signs, and performed all of the functions of precinct committeemen, except they did it outside the party structure.

    If you can’t see the existential danger that poses for the GOP, you’re blind.

  • Short-sighted thinking fails to grow the farm team
  • Successful candidates for state and national office seldom appear out of thin air. They usually must learn the ropes of campaigning and gaining experience at a lower level before voters will consider them. It very much easier to sell “former mayor of Central City, Joe Smith” than it is plain old Joe Smith.

  • It forces the all-or-nothing bet on 72-hour phone banking
  • This is the biggie. Without a local precinct committeeman to remind voters regularly about the need to vote and for whom, all we’re left with is the final push. A final push in a specific area can be strategically valuable in a close race, but we can’t do it everywhere. With a local precinct committeeman in every precinct who knows his or her voters, the final 72 hours can be devoted to the closest races, not to all of them.

    A 30-day program is not the answer. While that adjusts better to current balloting methods, it follows the same short-term thinking as the 72-hour program. GOTV must be carried out over a period of months and years, during which local precinct workers build loyalty and inspire voters, rather than simply pestering them at the last minute.

When Republicans inspire voters with our ideas, we win. But the RNC chairman must not try to inspire voters directly; rather the RNC chair should put the best people available in each local precinct to do the work. There are people waiting. They need only be given the opportunity.

I believe Maria Cino, Reince Priebus, and Michael Steele are for various reasons constitutionally incapable of completing the party structure and allowing local people to thrive. It’s time to find that quality in one of the other candidates, or even to reach outside the system to find one who has it.